By Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle, and Kate Leth
Moonstruck is a new series from Image that covers a lot of ground in this premiere issue. It’s a complex comic, tackling issues with gender fluidity, love, LGBTQ acceptance in society, and, of course, the very relatable experience of being a queer lady werwolf. All of these big issues get handled with art that no other word than “cute” can describe, with also the most straightforward narrative possible. Julie is the aforementioned ladywolf who works at an ever so cool coffee shop with her deeply relatable bestie, Chet, and she has just met the woman of her dreams. She has an obsession with a young adult series called Pleasant Mountain Sister, which serves as a stark contrast to the world in which we find our heroine. This book is centered around a world where people are anthropomorphic, meaning it is normal to see a woman with snakes for hair or guys who are part some kind of cool looking bird. We are catching just part of a normal day for Julie; a shift at work, a few texts with her new love, and then things go kind of sideways when she goes on a missions for Chet at a nearby cafe. It is there where Julie is served some Trelawaney-sized prophecy that stops her straight in her footsteps.
When cute art is used to deliver some intense and often divisive themes in comics, it is largely successful. The art from Beagle and Leth has a very unassuming, non-threatening quality to it, like a baby bunny. The colors are soft with pastel hues and light and airy details to give this comic a nice flow. The character design is also noteworthy with inclusive designs that not only include different ethnicities and body shapes, they also stay in the fantasy genre and incorporate aspects of anthropomorphism. Take our leading lady, Julie, for example: she is a Latinx lesbian werwolf, who is also full-figured. That kind of representation just does not happen everyday in comics. This book normalizes concepts like gender fluidity and queerness, but makes the most absurd thing about the character the fact that they can transform into a wolf. It is not just Julie who is given this treatment, we are introduced to a bevy of supporting characters who each have their own unique “thing” that lets them stand out. This gives this issue a certain charm to it, while also making it feel important for others to read and share.
The story from Ellis is also charming in its own right. Moonstruck #1 sets up this fantastical world perfectly in just a few pages. By the end of the story, the readers fully understand who Julie is and what she is going through, and we care about what happens next to her. For that alone, Ellis was successful in creating a compelling story. Everything else is icing on the cake that gets sprinkled in, from the colorful supporting cast of characters that Julie is surrounded by, to the beautiful subplots she so effortlessly weaves into the larger narrative. She is clearly painting a larger world, and future issues, that will surely prove that this town has a lot of stories to be told.
Some comics series can have an introductory premiere issue that just feels right, like a really comfy couch that when you first sit in it feels like you have sat in it a thousand times. Moonstruck #1 is a comfy couch comic, meaning you will read it, automatically feel a certain level of familiarity due to the talented creative team, and then want to add it to to your pull list. This issue may read cute at first glance, but do not be fooled by the baby bunny approach this book takes. There is a lot of heart and complicated issues going on that give this story more depth than one would assume.